The word Nefelibata has drawn my attention recently. The word originates in Portugese, derived from ‘nephele’ (cloud) and ‘batha’ (a place to walk.) It refers to one who lives in their own imagination or dreams, or one who does not abide by the precepts of society, literature or art; an unconventional, unorthodox person.
One of the things I often repeat in my workshops is that I’m ‘not encumbered by reality.’ I am inspired by reality, but I don’t feel obligated to try to reproduce it. In fact, when I come too close to reality in my artwork, I’m often unsatisfied. I feel that the interpretation of that reality is more interesting than accuracy. I’m drawn to work that ‘riffs’ on reality. It is the individual’s response to reality that I find interesting in art, writing and music.
In looking for a painting to embody this concept, I chose one that recently returned from the Portland Art Museum’s Rental Sales Gallery. I found I’d never posted it on my site before! I often send pieces out into the world before I have a chance to promote them… and this piece is one of those. I’ve always loved the activity and detail of this piece. The texture and line work are so evocative of memories of ‘major’ (in my memory) thunderstorms.
This spring I was privileged to receive a critique of my work from an artist I respect. The artist giving the critique works in a realistic manner. One word they used to describe my abstract work was ‘facile.’ This has been bothering me for a while now… and I think I’m almost over it.
One reason it bothered me, is that I don’t find abstraction easy to do. Not at all! I think abstraction is more difficult than realism. I also feel that these particular paintings embody (for me) more personal meaning than many of my more realistic paintings.
Another reason this comment disturbed me might be more subconscious. With abstraction, I feel that I’ve found a way of working that feels natural. Not easy, mind you, but natural – suited to my skills, my aesthetics and my content. Maybe this is why the critiquing artist thought the work looks ‘facile.’
The definition of facile:
(especially of a theory or argument) appearing neat and comprehensive only by ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial, simplistic, oversimplified.
I feel there is a fine line between capitalizing on our strengths and challenging ourselves to fit others’ expectations. However, I do want my work to suggest a mystery, a deeper meaning and a personal response to the world. I don’t want it to appear simplistic or superficial.
What are your thoughts? Do you find abstraction (particularly mine) to be less meaningful than realism? Don’t worry about hurting my feelings! I can take it… Thanks for joining the discussion.
If you’ve never experienced Art Extravaganza, you’re in for a treat! Sponsored by the Clackamas Art Alliance, this vendor trade show is an opportunity for artists, educators, students and all art enthusiasts to test, try and buy new and favorite art supplies and tools.
Artist Demonstrations and Lectures
Panel Discussion by CERF+
Pop-Up Art Materials Store by Merri Artist
Some of the many exhibitors:
Gamblin Artists Colors
Mel’s Frame Shop
Strathmore Artist Papers
Winsor & Newton
It’s free to attend, and the mini-workshops are very reasonable. Also, I’ll be giving a lecture and demo of my process using Oil & Cold Wax Medium on Panel from 10:30 – 12:30. Tuition is $10 and space is limited.
If you’ve been thinking about taking my workshop in June at Oregon Society of Artists, this would be a great preview of the class.
You can get tickets and pre-register for the free trade show by clicking below. The first 50 people to pre-register will be entered in a drawing for a reproduction of Susan Kuznitsky’s pastel painting, beautifully framed by Mel’s Frame Shop. Register Here
Here are some of the other artists who will be sharing demonstrations:
Shelly Caldwell – Mixed Media Assemblage
Renè Eisenbart – Watermedia Painting
Sheila Ford Richmond – Block Prints, Fabric Paints
Karen Hadley – Mixed Media, Acrylic, Collage
Susan Kuznitsky – Pastels
Cindy Lommasson – Chinese Brush Painting
Sarah Sedwick – Artgraf
Amanda Sweet – Watercolor
Finally, check out the event page for a full list of vendor exhibitors, classes and demonstrations. I hope to see you there! And just in case you think winter will never end here in Western Oregon, I’ll leave you with nature’s own Art Extravaganza, directly from my soggy garden – Happy Spring!
“I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Flotsam and Jetsam” – my newest painting- has a tumultuous feeling. Perhaps it was influenced by recent world events. I ache for the many people in the world who have lost loved ones in the past week.
I was in love with the color early on, and struggled to keep the whole thing transparent. However, I wanted to keep it unusual as far as shape, color and line. Sometimes I fall in love with an area too early in the painting process. Then there is the deadly lure of that precious area that can undermine a painting.
Why would I want to keep the painting transparent? Well, there are a couple of show deadlines coming up that specify only transparent watercolor. Painting for a deadline like this is a little bit like going into a bar and trying to find someone to marry. It’s risky! I’d much rather enter something that evolved naturally.
Thanks to critiques along the way from some good painting buddies, I feel that the painting is complete. In an unusual turn of events, I changed the title to ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’ at the end of the process. The finished painting has a feeling of sand and surf to me.
Perhaps that is because of the workshop I’m planning for Maui next year! You’ll want to read all the details and start planning for next fall! Click the Workshops tab for more information.
An exciting, hopeful event has transpired here on the farm! We are expecting a clutch of baby bluebirds! Those who know me well know that I have been trying to attract bluebirds to our property for 6+ years. I will keep you posted on their hatch…. I’m a happy bluebird watcher.
Gardening has taught me so much about painting. Here are a few kernels of advice for all you budding (get it?) artists and gardeners.
You know how it is when you come home after 10 days away and some of the little things have changed drastically? Yeah, that happened! I was in Newport for the Watercolor Society of Oregon‘s Spring Exhibition and Convention, then stayed for the workshop with Gale Webb. The image above is a painting that resulted from that class.
I’m thrilled to share that my painting “Coming Through the Rye” received an award… honored to be among one of the artists chosen from this stunning show. The 20 Award-Winning paintings will travel the state for the next six months. Check out my Events Page for more information!
I came home from my time away to an explosion of growth in the garden… Tree peonies and dogwood in bloom and WEEDS! 🙁 I also came home to try to carve out some time in the studio. With deadlines approaching and commissions on the table, that is essential. But I also need to get out in the garden while the weather is good and the weeds are small!
5 Things I’ve Learned About Art and Gardening
1) Devotion: To have a beautiful garden or art practice, you MUST devote time. My art practice thrives when I put in the time. My garden, right now, needs a bit more time. It is full of weeds, needs pruning and is getting away from me.
2) Pruning: pruning judiciously leaves more room for light, more time for art. Do you struggle with overcrowding? My garden is facing that issue right now, as is my life! Too many commitments have broken into the sacred time I usually reserve for my art. It is time for a little pruning of my schedule AND my garden!
3) Seeds or ideas: Both must be carefully managed so they don’t scatter. Keeping my ideas in a sketchbook or journal is like keeping a file for seeds. It pays to review what I’ve done in the studio (and the garden) what produced well and what I can learn from it. Which idea or plant is best suited for the resources I have available? What do I need to balance out my inventory? Making a plan and sticking to it is easier said than done, but it pays to keep my eye on the prize and focus my efforts.
4) Watering and Fertilizing: just like seeds in the garden, my art ideas need resources to grow and thrive. The ‘water’ of my art practice is viewing other art, exploring new materials and reading. I ‘fertilize’ my imagination with reading poetry, non-fiction (currently a book on butterflies), journals and fiction.
5) Being Present: When I’m in the garden, I’m happy… happy to be weeding or planting, planning or just enjoying the fresh air. When I go into the studio, my focus shifts to creating. I try not to waste time in either place, wishing I were elsewhere. I capitalize on the rainy days by spending them in the studio and enjoy the sunshine in the garden when it arrives. It takes both rain and sun to make a garden. Similarly, it takes both joy and sweat to make a painting.
Just like walking through a beautiful, mature garden, art viewers often see the end result when a finished work of art is presented. It is difficult to imagine the sweat, persistence, concentration and hard-won time that went into creating that painting, just like one does not always consider the battle with weeds, elements and failure that led to the creation of a beautiful garden. Persistence in the face of frustration is often the key in both art and gardening!
You can be sure that gardening and painting both reap lasting rewards, though. Both teach us about beauty, stamina, flexibility, appreciation and joy. Both allow us to share with the world our own unique aesthetic. Gardening and Painting both constantly surprise me with unexpected gifts – a volunteer plant, an unusual blending of color…. What similarities do you see between gardening and painting?
Leave me a comment! I love hearing from you. Let me know what’s happening in your art life or your garden. As always, I appreciate your sharing my words and work with friends and family!
I always feel like this time of year spins way too fast! Our favorite summer activity as kids was the slip & slide… and that inspired this painting. I used some of the monotypes I made using the gelli-plate on this, and also printed directly onto the painting.
I originally painted this last summer but had never framed it. I didn’t feel like it was quite complete. You can view the original before the collage & gelli-plate additions here.
The silent auction items for “Pulse” 210 Commercial St, Salem, OR. Tonight (5/16) is the final night!
I spent time this week in the garden and also at Pulse, Mary Lou Zeek’s pop-up gallery and benefit for the Medical Foundation of Marion & Polk counties.
When Mary Lou and some of the other artists saw my gelli prints, they were eager to sign up for my workshop in Keizer! You know you have a good thing when other artists are so enthused about learning it. I think I will be including this technique in my upcoming classes, but those in Keizer will have extra time on it! Register soon for any of my workshops– they are filling fast.
I also want to encourage you to see James Kirk’s retrospective at River Gallery. I attended the opening reception and loved seeing the huge crowd assembled. Professor Kirk has a wide circle of influence.
Yesterday I slowed down enough to take some shots of my rock garden. It really is filling in nicely!
Siberian Iris, Elderberries and Weigelia
The rock garden from below
I had a fun opportunity to tour another garden in Estacada yesterday. Laurel Hedge specializes in Garden Ornaments and Design and they have a fabulous eye. If you live in the Portland Metro area, they are worth the drive. They are planning an open garden on May 25, 2014 from 11-4. You won’t be disappointed!
Here are a few teaser shots:
Statuary, trees and blooming shrubs ornament much of the garden
A beautiful combination in a re-purposed bird bath
This sweet magnolia was covered in blooms!
I wish you could see the enormous koi in this pond!
Beautiful Knot Garden
Great way to incorporate Bearded Iris in the Garden
This painting began as my demonstration for the Buffalo Grass Art Society almost a week ago. My goal was to paint the experience I had as a young adult, walking on the farm in the dark, without a flashlight. As I painted, my mind went back and forth between the narrative of the experience and pictorial considerations like how much dark to leave, color balance, etc.
I wanted to paint an image that allows the viewer a glimpse into my experience… a painting that lets you hear the crickets and the tree frogs, sense the warm enveloping dark and the glimmer of light from the house. The feeling of having eyes wide open, to barely eke out the shapes of the road, the fields and the tree line. Confused, but comfortable.
It can be tough to retain that concentration while painting in front of 16 people, but this group allowed me space to find words as I painted, and asked some excellent questions that kept me on track. It is an honor to be asked to demonstrate for a group of experienced artists like them!
I’m working on finishing the acrylic paintings that I started in both of last month’s workshops. More fine tuning is needed. I have my other watercolor at a point that I think it is finished, but my daughter pointed out an area of concern last night, so I will revisit it today.
We have snow on the ground and more predicted, so I guess I will hole up in the studio! I’m looking forward to teaching my next workshop in two weeks. I hope this weather calms down before then….